Luke Prendergast (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Reading for a Cure in Edmund Spenser and Robert Burton

My research aims to shed new light on the development of humanist rhetorical culture and its relationship with medical discourse between the end of the 16th and middle of the 17th centuries. I focus on Edmund Spenser’s ”The Faerie Queene” and Robert Burton’s ”The Anatomy of Melancholy”, in a new comparative pairing, taking as a cue the authors’ shared interest in physiological and ethical temperance, and their stated intention of creating texts that offer therapeutic or reformative possibilities to the reader. In bringing these two texts together, I intend to locate Spenser and Burton within a tradition of therapeutic reading, one which registers the complex and changing tensions of early modern attitudes towards reading, the efficacy of humanist rhetoric, and the psycho-physiological conception of the human body.

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